One Screaming October

I must admit, this was one of the scariest Octobers I have experienced in a long time.  If you recall from the last post (link here) , every day this month was packed with task after task trying to get everything done for the big party.  If you recall from that post (or looked at the comments) you might remember that there was a quick mention of an “event” I was training for.  That was a tad understated since the event was actually a half marathon… and it was scheduled for the DAY BEFORE THE PARTY.  Actually, check that… it was literally the NIGHT BEFORE THE PARTY.  I am not exactly sure what came over me when I decided to enter this race, but I had a Life List entry for this year to make it through 2 halfs sometime during the year.  As you know, I made it through the first one back in September (link here).    That didn’t leave a whole lot of time to get the second one in before the end of the year.  Originally the thought was to hit the Vegas Rock and Roll 1/2 in December, but then I stumbled on the Screaming Pumpkin Race.  First of all, it was at night which is my favorite time to race.  Second it was a course I was familiar with and the cherry .. it was Halloween themed.  You can’t go wrong with that can you?   ummm, actually you can if you forget about all the other things that had to get done around that time.

The main issue was getting time to keep the maintenance runs up.  I was already trained up for the half in September so it was really a matter of keeping the legs fresh and the endurance up.  My runs were cut down to three a week – if I could even get that many in – and the miles were backed down into the 7 to 9 range which made it sliiiightly easier to get in between tasks.  Unfortunately, sometime at the beginning of the month something bad happened … to the point I would have argued with any doctor that tried to convince me I didn’t give myself a hernia.  That was the last thing I needed.  I did make the training runs, but found myself going slower and slower at the splits.  CRAP!  The interesting thing is there was no visible sign so there was some optimism that it was just a nasty muscle pull.  As race day approached, I became so busy that I actually forgot about it and somehow it ended up feeling pretty good  – nothing like mind over matter – if someone could bottle that the medical industry would be devastated.

Hit the jump to read all about the event!

Continue reading One Screaming October

An “Epic” Haunted Trail 2012

There are times when you look back and simply surprise yourself.  Sunday happened to be one of those moments for me.  In late September Linda and I had a long discussion about whether we could actually pull off the Annual Halloween Party this year.  Project Auuunnnoold had the basement in full hurricane mode, Linda’s trip to Iowa was coming up, I had an event to train for and way too many odds and ends to get done before even considering having people over.  It’s hard to give up a tradition and eventually we decided to give a try but pushed the date out later than usual to provide a few more work hours to address the reams of to-do lists.  Linda’s key requirement – there had to be a working bathroom in the basement.  Two weeks before show-time Auuunnnoold was wreaking havoc on me.  Walls needed to be anchored, wire needed to be ran, drywall had to be hung, tile laid, grout ground in, plumbing finished and doors installed.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have such good friends and family.  With the saving assistance of Jeff, Rocket, Pez, Pakage and Vonno we managed to pull it all off.  Drywall and wiring went in the week before, tile went down on Monday, grout on Tuesday, grout sealed on Wednesday, plumbing finished and a Thursday and I was literally installing the doors Friday morning.  In the midst of all this I was cleaning up like a madman and dealing with the high decorations – Linda was busy decorating the rest of the house and planning out the food and drinks.  After a huge event Friday night I was back cleaning up the mess from the doors only to wake up early the next morning to prep the outside for the party and attack the new tradition of “The Haunted Trail”.  Oh, on Tuesday I had to dispose of a body… but more on that in an upcoming post.

So, I picked this picture as the lead image because it represented how I felt leading up to the party… and it was the lead decoration on the 2012 Haunted Trail – Yep, we got it all done but huge credit has to go to RenderBoy who came to our rescue and did a stellar job.

The alert viewers out there might have noticed an intriguing orange cord in the image above.  That’s right folks, this year we stepped it up and brought the element of power to the trail.  Thanks to a truckload of extension cords, RenderBoy was able to get power all the way down to Serenity (link here).  If you are familiar with the property you are likely amazed at this point!  Now we had a whole new avenue for decorations and RenderBoy used it to the fullest.  As a special treat, I’ll take you through some of the trail.  Before that, I need to mention my favorite photography quote “One bad picture is a mistake, a hundred bad pictures is a style.”  61 blurry pictures pretty much puts me in the style category so in celebration of Halloween I give you the Blair Witch style of the Haunted Trail (translated.. crappy cell phone photos – it definitely deserved better).  Also note this is just a subset of the shots – you can see all the pictures up on Eddiesoft’s Photo Gallery (link here).

Hit the jump to see a sampling of the trail!

Continue reading An “Epic” Haunted Trail 2012

Concert Recollection: Why Don’t You All F-Fade Away

It was a truly an educational day today! Rocket dropped by to help me out on Project Aaauunold. It’s down to the wire (intentional pun) around here to get through about 10 more phases of the project before this upcoming Thursday. Lucky for me I have slightly deranged friends (and family!) willing to waste their free time to give me a fighting chance of actually pulling these tasks off. The cool thing is I’m picking up all new skilz.. umm that may be a little too strong, let’s go with knowledge. My college days were spent playing around in the 5-10v arena – not so much in the 120 range. As a result I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to house wiring. Thanks to Rocket, I am now pretty comfortable with most of the wiring scenarios and probably most amazing – I FINALLY understand the three way switch. It has taken him about 20 times to explain it, but it finally sunk in today – thanks to getting all my wiring tasks done early today I can spend a few minutes cranking out a new post.

Let’s go with a recollection from our most recent concert outing. I was about to categorize it as the last concert of the season but looks like we’ll be heading back to Vegas later in the year and Linda is already researching all the venues for things to see. This particular recollection is from August at the Illinois State Fair. As you know we have been hitting the “classic” tours this season (link here and here).  This year the Fair was featuring a combination of bands I grew up with and one dark horse.  We tend to head down to Springfield to see the Butter Cow anyway and decided to catch the concert.  My expectations were pretty high based on the entertainment value of the previous concerts this year…well, at least ONE of the bands delivered that night.  Fortunately for me, I can always resort to people watching when things go bad.

Since we are all about observations around here, I thought it would be interesting to visually show you the definition of success in the Rock and Roll field.  Starting off the night was none other than the Georgia Satellites (the dark horse).  If you just said the who?  then you are probably in good company.  They really  just had two songs of any popularity – Keep Your Hands to Yourself (one of Linda’s favorites) and the cover Hippy Hippy Shake.  The fact they actually produced a greatest hits album is quite shocking.  Now let’s see what the downhill side of a two hit band looks like.

Ugh.. not good.  I’ve seen more fans at a local bar with an 80’s hair tribute band.  To their credit they did play their signature songs and actually filled up the rest of their set with a bunch of other covers.  Say goodbye to #5 in 1986.

Hit the Jump for the rest of the bands!

Continue reading Concert Recollection: Why Don’t You All F-Fade Away

Pleasantly Planned Luck

Jumping back to the photography related posts for this entry. If you spend any time on my little off ramp here, you have probably noticed that a large portion of my time behind the glass is spent shooting wildlife – particularly my feathered friends and the larger mammals when the opportunity arises. In truth, I actually take a lot of pictures of different subjects but generally keep those to myself unless there is something unique (leopard moths) or creepy about them (think arachnids). Every once in awhile I’ll go crazy and take a picture of a perfectly still mountain or lonely tree. These choice shots I tend to leave for my wife because that is her domain and I wouldn’t want to intrude on that or we might get into competition on who has better focus principles, who has better mastery of composition or grasps the concepts of light. Everybody knows I’m not really one for competition especially when it comes between a husband and wife. Unfortunately, a certain someone has started creeping out of “her” ummm let’s go with “their” comfort zone…. maybe taking big game shots and pitting them against other wildlife shots. I’m fine with that, of course, just saying…

So today, I decided to branch out a little myself just to mix it up a little bit around here. Linda and I were out at Jubilee Park, once again checking out what the park had to offer for photo ops. The birds have been a little scarce the last few times we were there forcing me to look a little closer to ground for interesting subjects. This led me to a clump of purple wildflowers filled with activity.

As the norm these days, the D7000 was supporting both the Beast and 1.4 Tele (I need to give this one a cool name too).  What better time than to get a little practice in on using big glass on smalls.  For those who have not tried this, to characterize it as a difficult is a huge understatement.  It is hard enough trying to get a bird tack sharp while hand holding glass this heavy, but to accomplish this on a subject that is smaller than the central focus can drive you crazy.  Looking at it from a different perspective, the better you get at this level, the better you will get a pictures that matter… I mean pictures of birds – yes birds.  There is definitely one major advantage of larger glass in this arena – at open aperture it throws the background into silky smooth bliss.  A nice benefit over having to fight the extremely tight depth of field.  You can get a feel for just how tight that is in the next shot.

Taking into account the size of the bee, you can extrapolate that to the size of the flower.  Notice how the back half of the flower is fading out of focus – probably looking at a couple of inches of play at best.  Now comes the tradeoff in the field.  Do you continue the fight to keep the center focus exactly where you need it and compensate for the likely drift of the focus and any inherent movement of the subjects or do you buy yourself some contingency by stepping the Aperture down (higher f# but in truth it is inverted).  There are tradeoffs whatever decision you make, but in truth all of us amateurs have a great debt of gratitude to the inventors of digital media – I would hate to even think about the bill for developing the number of shots we actually took that day.  In my mind, the right decision is to do both – experiment, learn and hit that magical delete key on the less than perfect.

Hit the jump to continue the discussion

Continue reading Pleasantly Planned Luck

Movie Recollection: Atlas Shrugged II

I can’t believe how busy I am at the moment.  I have a run I need to get prepared for, Project Auunold to get to a specified state before next Thursday, an event to plan and as of 2 hours ago a well to fill.  What has fallen off the table are my posts and for that I must apologize.  Not wanting to throw in the towel yet, I’m still working on posts just primarily in my head.  Actually, in my head an on my lunch break.  As mentioned previously the main inhibitor of speedy posts is the self imposed prep work.  This is lessened by going the photography route since I have become pretty proficient at the post processing workflow.  However, in those cases where I do not “hammer” (ah, a clever foreshadowing) you with photo topics, I need to awaken the creative juices and build a graphic from scratch.  Since time is scarce at the moment I’m forced to improvise and simply drag out a piece of paper and a pen/marker and throw something together over lunch.  15 minutes later I had today’s post graphic.  Not spectacular by any means, but it will do.

If you haven’t figured out by the title or the graphic, the recollection today is on the recently released Atlas Shrugged II.  This movie series has become somewhat surreal for me.  If you recall from me previous post (link here) , the first episode of this movie didn’t exactly leave a very good impression.  I think shuddered was the word of choice.  Once again, my friends wanted to go see the second part and weighing in the aspects that I had already invested time in the first movie and it was a chance to hang out with friends I hesitantly agreed to go.  At worst case I figured I might get another post out of it.  Turns out at least I got another post out of it.

[hold please … have to go get another 400 gallons of water].. tick tock tick tock…  [back now – the water is now being emptying into my well so I have exactly 15 minutes to complete this post]

Now I get the premise of the book and the clear evils of big government theory which aligns with my own opinion.  I also believe that the rest of the people in the theater have the exact same political position.  The problem is one of preaching to the choir.  It isn’t people like myself this message needs to get to, it’s the people like those that continue to embarrass themselves by writing comments/opinions into the local paper or those that ooze out of every biased media channel you tune to these days.  So in essence it is really a wasted effort unless you can entice those people into sitting through the message.  To do that you need to be entertaining to a fault – flashy if you will.  Maybe have Adele create the soundtrack or employ special effects people to produce visuals that don’t look like they were done on a lunch break.  On the latter I must admit that they have improved over the last movie (translated, no ridiculously long train shots) but better in this case still gets a failing grade in my book.  Case in point, when a plane crashes into a field, I’m guessing the cockpit won’t look like the carpet was just cleaned by Merry Maids.  Want to know another key to success in a multi-episode film – try to at least keep the main characters played by the same people.  I’m am not sure there was even one single repeat character which makes it harder to pick up a plot line for sure.  Oh, per the comment regarding making it entertaining… this means the director needs to understand what shots should stay and which sections should hit the cutting room floor (or in some cases melted in a red hot fire).    The finest example of this is the completely baffling scene of watching a leading character remove furniture from a cottage and put it out on the lawn.  One piece after another…and then the scene switches with zero context on what was removed (or why for that matter).  Just gobbling up some of the 112 minutes I guess.  Trust me, there were plenty of examples like this that could have reduced this episode down enough to actually include the third episode and at least tell me who the hell John Galt is.

There were two parts in the movie that stuck out for me.  The most shocking part is that Teller (from Penn & Teller) had a line in the movie (I’ll let you ponder on that for awhile).  The other part involved a portrait they panned over.  Every single person in the audience turned to the person next to them and said “Is that Jay J[]?”  That would be reference to a local ambulance chaser that would probably try to sue me if I actually used his full name.  I’ll give you a hint though – his commercial touts him as a “SUPERLAWYER”.  We all had a good chuckle over that one.  By the way, a third thing that stuck out [ha] was what I’ll refer to as cleavage cam.  What they skipped in special effects shots they clearly made up by making sure their actresses’ assets where ummm well lit.  Beyond those moments, this movie is pretty much one big snooze.

Almost forgot to elaborate on what makes this series so surreal.  Atlas is all about the competitive marketplace, the payback on investment, the earnings on creativity and the rail against handout if you will (looky there, one huge novel reduced to a sentence).  Applying those concepts to the present, one should be rewarded for the originality of the movie (eesh) just like the theater should profit from the experience they provide yada yada yada.  Pretty sure I mentioned in the first post I lucked out and was given a ticket to see the first episode (too tired to check right now).  That played a small part in the equation to convince myself to go – guilt over getting a free ride the first time out.  So up to the counter I went to lay my hard earned cash down …. when the theater owner directs the two of us in line to get our ticket at the concession stand.  That would be a first time for that at this particular theater, but off we went.  The guy ahead of me (who was actually from our group) was asked what show he wanted tickets for.  Oddly enough the clerk was busy glancing at a monitor when he asked this.  When my friend responded with Atlas the clerk checked the monitor out again and proceeded to tell him the movie was free today because the computer was down.  He then asked me what I wanted to see while once again glancing at the monitor.  This brought on the exact same response after another glance down at a monitor.  That’s 2 for 2 in seeing the movie for free.  Now the guilt was overwhelming so I was forced to purchase a small drink which was literally half the ticket price ($3.50).  We asked the other members of our party whether they had to pay and turns out they did (computer must have been up then).  15 minutes later more of our group came in and turns out they had to pay too.  Living the good Karma!

The last of the 2000 gallons of water is now safely down the well – it’s finally time to hit the sack – have to get some sleep because tomorrow I have to learn how to tile.

Making the Best of a Dreary Day

I have entered the lair of the enemy and lived to tell about it. How is that for a dramatic intro? So truth be told, for the last three days I have been in Iowa. Specifically, I have been in Iowa City, the home of black and gold and a dreaded enemy of Chief Illiniwek. Why would I subject myself to three days of Herky Hell? What would bring an Orange and Blue die hard to subject himself to an arch rival? Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Linda had the opportunity to benefit from their fine medical facilities at the University of Iowa and for that I will gladly swallow my pride and express my gratitude. I think we are now on a good path to getting some issues under control and if it takes a little humility to make that happen – well, bring it on. Just for the record, I’ll still root against them in any sports competition… although since the Illini once again suck pond water it will be done with more of an inside voice.

One impact of this is a significant reduction in available blogging time. With Project Auuuunold in full bore, another half at the end of the month and taking care of the other issues it doesn’t leave much time to tickle the keyboard. It is too early to throw in the towel, but need to warn you the focus will probably be on photography related topics since the post processing work is actually faster than the prep work for the other types of posts. As a start, here is a set taken off my porch one dreary day a few months back. There is a lot still to learn about the Beast and a little low light practice is never wasted. The Beast is a VRII 4.0f end to end glass . With the 1.4 Teleconverter on, it drops to 5.6f which thirsts for light out in the field. It was time to try out some different settings and modes to see how best to shoot birds when the light is not ideal. One bi-product of the drizzle caught me by surprise.  See anything interesting in this shot?

Nothing catch your eye?  Hmmm, how about another shot in a more traditional crop… hint, you might not associate this as a typical BoaS?

Hit the jump and I’ll zoom you into the subject.

Continue reading Making the Best of a Dreary Day